Chapel Life, 1907

Activity at East Street Wesleyan Chapel, Southampton

Southampton Methodist Circuit Records, Southampton City Archives

Mr Richard Lamerton, the chapelkeeper of East Street Wesleyan Chapel, Southampton, stands in his frock coat, fixing us with the stern gaze with which, no doubt, he quelled unruly boys in the gallery. The painted board beside him announces the regular Sunday services, morning and evening, the morning and afternoon Sunday School, the Saturday and midweek preaching services. Behind him a printed notice calls for “good men and women” to join the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood. Those good men and women could find all they needed in the fellowship of their church: they could not only take part in prayer meetings and  “the means of grace”, but enjoy lantern shows and concerts, teas and bazaars. There was no need to frequent the music-halls or the public houses, for they could find entertainment as well as exhortation within the walls of their church.

With the development of this chapel culture, came a need to make an effort to reach their neighbours who found that culture strange and irrelevant. The modern church should be an “aggressive church”. Southampton would not get its Central Hall until 1925, but the spirit of the movement, combining evangelistic preaching, social witness, and “brief, bright and brotherly” (or sisterly) activities was alive and well.

It was as well the chapelkeeper’s “cottage” was a short walk across the alleyway from the back of the chapel, at 7 Hanover Place. Mr Lamerton had a great deal to do. A few sheets of paper slipped into a Missionary Committee Minute Book painstakingly list all the activities for a typical week, and they reveal the amount of labour involved in caring for church premises in the days of coal fires and gas lighting.

1907Report of Chapelkeeper

March 29th


7 am light fire for Prayer Meeting. Open up & fill furnace fire. Pick up litter from Saturday Night Concert. 8.30 light fires for classes. 9.30 light fires in Ministers and Choir Vestrys see to furnace fire. Open for School & classes. Get ready in Church for opening Attend to Door. Lock up Schoolroom & Back vestrys. Look around to keep order outside. After service pick up hymn books lock up gates get ready for Brother & Sister Hood Meeting see to fires. After Dinner see to School Room open school and Church. At the close see to Ventilate Church. Rearrange Platform see to fires in Vestry. Lock Gates church & schoolroom. After Tea open for Prayer Meetings. Light up Church & outside. Open & attend to Door. Lock up Back Vestrys & School Room. Keep a look out around to keep order. About 7.30 people begin to come for 2nd service. Attend to Door during going out & others coming in. After service pick up Back turn out Lights Lock up just on 10 o’clock.
10 different   meetings

March 30th

Sweep out School Room rearrange for   Mothers Meeting Bring out 2 Class room tables & Tally Board. Sweep out   Vestrys relay 4 fires. Light Ministers Vestry fire for Ministers Meeting. Light gas get cups & saucers for Mothers Meeting Tea. After the M Meeting sweep up, & rearrange School Room with Carpet & Curtains for Guild. Light fire for Prayer Meeting & clean up Children’s Room. Contest Choir Practice. Band Committee Meeting. Guild Committee. Lock up 10.15.
7 different   meetings

March 31st

Clear up rooms & relay 2 fires. Take up Carpet in Schoolroom. Light up furnace fire to heat church. Light up Ministers & Choir Vestry fires for Mrs Mears’ & Mr Smalls classes. Get ready for Lantern service. Children practice in School Room. Mr Woodin class. Lock up about 10.
5 different   meetings

April 1st

Clean up Vestries & relay 2 fires. Arrange S Room for Sunday School Workers tea. Light furnace fire to  heat Church & S Room. Afternoon get Church ready for Conference attend to getting Tea. Light up & get ready for Public Service. Light up 2 Vestry fires for class & Brother Hood workers meeting. Turn Lights. Lock up 10.30.
6 different   meetings

April 2nd

Clear away Tea Tables in S Room. Sweep up & lay carpet. Hang up Curtains arrange room for Girls Parlour. Clean up Class Rooms & relay 3 fires, Shake out 7 door mats. Brush & turn out cushions & hassocks. Sweep out Church. Light fire for Mrs Mears class. Children practice SS anniversary. Light fires for Mr ED Burrows, Youngs & Mrs Aldridge classes & Choir Vestry. Light up for Girls Parlour. Choir Practice & Guild room for Mr Sawtell class. Turn out lights as they leave. Lock up 10.30.
8 different   meetings

April 3rd

Sweep out class rooms & relay 4 fires. Take down curtains & put in glass room for Mr Tapper’s class.   Rearrange schoolroom for Saturday night’s concert. Arrange glass Room with seats and Piano. Lock up about 10.
1 meeting

April 4th

Take up & put away carpet. Take out all seats & arrange tables for Coffee & Buns. Dust church school   & class rooms. Fill up copper Light furnace & Copper & 2 Class room fires for Slate Club & entertainers. Attend to fires Making Coffee &c. After the meeting is over clear up school & class rooms relay 2 fires rearrange School Room for S School. Take 13 forms in Guild room & arrange for classes. Wash out lobby & steps dust school & class rooms. In the afternoon there was Class Leaders’ Meeting & Lyndhurst trustee meeting.



4 different   meetings


Making   a total of 40 for the week

A year later, in March and April 1908, “Charley Ross, the Celebrated Bookmaker and Tyneside Evangelist,” conducted a Mission, the Stewards considered it “desirable to add a Coal Club to the other Social Departments of Church work”, and Mr George Mason, local artist and church member, ran Lantern Services on the four Tuesday evenings previous to Easter.

Richard Lamerton had been born in Wear Gifford, Devon, 1847, and moved to Southampton in search of work as a shipwright in 1876. He died in 1925, having been a Local Preacher for 50 years. The Circuit Plan, Jan-Mar 1925 said his “revered name stood at the head of the preaching plan…Nothing gave him greater delight than the work he was able to do in connection with Methodism and temperance, and for many years he was one of the stalwarts of the East Street Wesleyan Church, although all the local causes enjoyed his sympathy and support.” He was Chapelkeeper for East Street from 1895 to 1914.

When Mr Lamerton had been appointed as Chapelkeeper, he had still been able to take one or two appointments, sometimes even three or four as a Local Preacher. That was quite a drop from the times when he had been “a very active man, and…walked miles into the district around Southampton in order to fulfil preaching engagements.” Then his own plans, preserved with the Methodist records in the City Archives, show him preaching nearly every Sunday, sometimes twice or even three times: but now they show no marks against his name for quarter after quarter. His time was more and more taken up with all this activity at East Street, and he was making a case for a rise in salary:

About 30 to 40 Hymn Books200 to be gathered up
Committee Meetings Band of HopeSlate Club Band Brotherhood.  Every week some one or other of Committee
48 Mantles and Shades83 Mantles & Shades
All meetings over by 9.30 unless very special occasions10 very rare general 10.30 & 11
Nothing at all on Saturday.

A day for cleaning up

Slate club every Saturday. Often when no concert Committee meetings are held
Often after Band of Hope on Wednesday sweep out S Room and arrange for Sunday, once sweeping School Room each week unless special occasions.Sweep out School Room Mondays   Wednesdays, Fridays & during concert Saturdays

We do not know what Mr Lamerton’s salary was in total, or what it had been on appointment. By the time he retired, after 19 years of employment, he was being offered “15/- per week, to include rent for cottage 6/6 payable weekly. All Teas extra.”  (Minutes of the Trustees of East Street Chapel, 2.7.1914. SRO D/METH 9/3)  The chapelkeeper’s fees for attendance at such teas had been set in 1912, and they depended on the numbers present:

About 12             6d

About 25             1/-

About 50             1/6

About 100           2/-

From 125-150      2/6

The East Street Trustees had their own concerns. They were responsible for the prudent managing of the Church’s budget, and declared that “the ordinary income was not sufficient to meet the expenses absolutely necessary as an aggressive church.” (Minutes, 25.6.1907) To increase income, they agreed that Mr Lamerton should be asked to “endeavour to let sittings to all the new comers he come in contact with, and that he be paid 10% on all such seat holders he introduced in first year’s payment.” (Minutes, 3.1.1907). Pew rents were from 1/- a quarter, as announced on the Chapel notice board. To reduce expenditure, they asked him to turn down the lighting at services during the prayers and the sermon, to save on gas.

Nevertheless, a sub-committee appointed to go into “the matter of the chapelkeeper’s remuneration” proposed to the Trustees’ Meeting that as “it was shown that since his appointment his duties had been considerably added to, owing to the number of meetings having more than doubled, which had necessitated his employing a large amount of extra help for which he had to pay, in order to keep premises clean. It was also realised that this must increase rather than diminish in the future. The Committee therefore felt that the Caretaker was entitled to extra remuneration and recommended for the future an increase of £10 pa to his salary.” (Minutes, 25.6.1907)

The meeting agreed an increase of £5 pa, “to be reconsidered in December”

Article originally published in the Southampton Local History Forum Journal, No. 9, Summer 2002

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